The Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department has established H.A.R.T.(Hispanic American Resource Team) in response to an enormous rise in our community's Spanish-speaking population. Hispanics now number the largest minority group in the LVMPD's jurisdiction but exact numbers are unknown because of a large population of undocumented Hispanics in the area. The U.S. Census Bureau put the Las Vegas metropolitan area's Hispanic population at 219,075 for 1999, and has estimated another 75,000 to 125,000 undocumented residents, which represents about 30 percent of the community.
This increasing population base also brings an increasing need to provide police services to a culturally diverse community.
The challenges faced by the LVMPD are:
- How to best serve the needs of a large segment of our community who do not speak English.
- How to protect and serve the large portion of our population who are so fearful of police that many crimes committed against them go unreported, which is what officers have found with a large number of the local undocumented Spanish-speaking persons.
H.A.R.T.'s mission statement is:
To encourage interaction between Department members and the people of different cultures within the Hispanic community, leading to mutual understanding and respect.
To build and maintain positive relationships between the Hispanic community and the police through compassion and innovative thinking.
As with many of the LVMPD's community policing efforts, H.A.R.T. has fostered a partnership with local businesses and civic organizations in support of the program.
H.A.R.T. consists of a team of Spanish-speaking officers who are fluent in both Spanish and English (speaking, reading and writing). They currently work out of the Downtown Area Command and provide five-day-a-week coverage.
Officers' responsibilities include:
- to conduct preliminary field investigations of criminal activities that impact the undocumented Spanish-speaking community.
- To conduct follow-up investigations when appropriate and to coordinate with other investigative units as events dictate.
- To develop and implement educational programs designed to foster working partnerships with this segment of the community.
- To assess and recognize crime trends and develop methods to combat these issues as they relate to this portion of the Hispanic community.
- To train other LVMPD officers in issues related to the experiences of policing this segment of the population.